Wednesday, February 12, 2020

James Bond Has Nothing On You

JOHN 8:29
...he who sent me is with me...

Every time James Bond was given a new assignment, he visited his friend Q before embarking on the mission. Q would have several new gadgets, weapons, and other surprises that would empower 007 to complete the task he had been given.

Jesus didn't rely on Q, but He did acknowledge that He had been given everything He needed. One day, while teaching, He explained to the people that He was able to accomplish His mission because the One who had sent Him was always with Him. Because God was always with Jesus, Jesus was able to do exactly what God wanted.

We have the same promise!


Just before Jesus went back to the Father, He commissioned the disciples go out and be His representatives in the world. Then He told them that He would be with them, to the very ends of the earth. Because Jesus is always with us, we are always able to do exactly what He wants us to do.

Be confident today. Use your words, attitude, and action to represent Jesus to the world. Don't be afraid of how others might respond or what the consequences might be. Jesus is with you and will be with you, even to the ends of the earth!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

What do you think? Is this good or bad?

My personal reading today took me to Luke’s version of the beatitudes. This list of short statements is a powerful reminder that God doesn’t see the world as I do. I am often quick to evaluate a situation based on the immediate outcomes.

Have I increased my wealth? This is good.
Is my belly full? This is good.
Am I happy? This is good.
Do people like me? This is good.


The beatitudes remind me to not judge so quickly. God is less concerned about whether or not my life situation make me more comfortable and He is far more concerned with whether or not my life situation brings me closer to Him.

Regardless of what happens around you today, whether it seems good or seems bad, try not to jump to a conclusion. Instead of focusing on how you feel about the situation, take time to consider how God might be using this situation to shape you into the image of Jesus and to draw you closer to Himself.

(You can read the verse below)

Luke 6:20-22
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Why Do Our Kids Continue To Text And Drive?

Why can our kids not stop texting and driving?

I spend a good amount of time on the road and I am continuously shocked by how many young people are driving down the highway with both hands on their phone and their eyes staring squarely down at their phone. This, in spite of a massive campaign against distracted driving and a collective conscience which agrees this is a miserable idea. My guess is that most of them either know someone or know of someone who has been in an accident caused by distracted driving. Yet an incredible number continue to text and drive. Why?

We have programmed them that way

I cannot help but think this is the result of an overdeveloped need for immediate gratification and an unquenchable thirst for positive affirmation.

For years, we’ve told ourselves and we’ve told our children, “You don’t have to wait. You can have it now.” It’s not just microwave ovens and Jimmy Johns that have promoted this myth. It’s credit cards, sales that last “one day only”, sub-prime loans, TiVo, made-for-TV pressure cookers, and even fast passes at Disney. Listen to any protest march. Regardless of what they are fighting for, part of their war chant is always, “When do we want it? NOW!” We’ve lost hold of the truth that “anything worth having is worth waiting for.”


Is it any surprise, then, that we cannot wait to check our cell phones. We want that message, and we want it now!

Further, we’ve created in our children and in ourselves an affirmation addiction. We stopped declaring winners and losers in athletic contests because we wanted everyone to “feel” good about their performance. We crave the dopamine hit that results from getting a like or share on Facebook. We are creating “safe spaces” at Universities for students who need to hide from challenging or frightening ideas. Remember when we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We actually believed that was a true statement. Now it’s considered insensitive and hurtful. Only a cretan would be willing to admit they think it’s true that “words can never hurt me.”

By feeding this craving for affirmation, we’ve become people who cannot even drive down the road for a few minutes without receiving affirmation from a snapchat, text, retweet or like. We must constantly check our phones to see who is giving us positive affirmation right now. If you aren’t sure about this, find a place where people stand in line. Just watch and count the phones.

How do we stop texting and driving?

The solution is NOT more billboards, commercials or school assemblies. Ironically, the solution will also not come quickly. All good things are worth waiting for, and most of the time, they require waiting.

We must begin to teach our children that they are not as important as they think they are. We must be willing to say things like, “That’s not really a problem.” and (even harder), “I guess that wasn’t good enough. You’ll have to try harder next time.”

We must stop the gravy train. Nothing in life is free (despite what every political candidate tells us) and it is that very lie which encourages our appetite for immediate gratification. Delay purchases. Choose contentment over accumulation. Say, “no” sometimes to your children (or at the very least say, “not now”).

People who don’t text and drive have two characteristics.

1) They can wait to see what their phone has to say to them.
2) They don’t find their self-worth from a touchscreen.

Maybe if we start there, we can fix the problem.

Friday, January 31, 2020

God is not the author of evil, but He is the editor!

Several years ago I made the statement that "Everything we have is a gift from God." I went on to suggest that even our life life's circumstances (good and bad) are a gift from God. Later, I received a super kind email asking if I would explain that concept a little more. I think this is a pretty common issue that people wrestle with, so here are some excerpts from my answer to him.

Please understand that I am NOT writing this as an ivory tower theologian or as a behind-the-pulpit preacher. I am a fellow pilgrim who has seen the swamp of despair and has endured the abuse of Vanity city. I have days when I am certain God has given me a burden better suited for someone else, and yet those same days are often marked by unmistakable interventions of his gracious provision. My life's journey is not resolved. In fact, it is decidedly unresolved and often I would be happy to give back the "gifts" God has deemed me worthy to receive....

Do I really believe that EVERYTHING is a gift from God? Am I saying that God is the author of evil?


I am absolutely not excusing the terrible actions of sinful people. Much of the suffering in our world is a direct result of terrible decisions being made by sinful people. However, while I believe God hates the pain which is present in our world, I don't think that sin or the suffering it causes is surprising to God nor does it worry Him. I might not use the words "God caused it", but I am comfortable saying God is "in control" of it.

I look at James 1 as one of the passages which really inform my perspective on this issue. I believe that the "good and perfect" gifts of James 1:17 are likely the trials of verse 2 (which lead to perseverance and completeness).

Like much of life, trials are best understood in the rear view mirror. Today's life circumstances may not feel like a gift, but for those who faithfully endure, a fuller understanding of God’s goodness is waiting.

Joseph is a great example of this truth. I'm sure there were many points when his life situation didn't feel like a gift. However, when he saved his family's lives, he gained a completely new perspective on his past suffering.

I know you may deal with suffering and pain that is likely far beyond what Joseph did. I hate that. I think God hates that. I know He hates the sin that has caused that. Yet, I have full confidence that He is capable of intervening (beyond what we could imagine), and that He will use life's darkest moments to bring glory to Himself and in so doing allow us to experience resolution and wholeness (in this life or the next).

God is not the author of evil, but He is the editor!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Be Honest. Be Content.

PROVERBS 30:7-9
Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.


Here is a simple summary:

1) Be Honest.
2) Be Content.

These verses require some meditation. Pursuing honesty and contentment can be a lifelong pursuit in which you may always improve but will never arrive.

Chew on this throughout your day. In your conversations with others, seek to be open, authentic, and truthful. When you compare yourself with others, choose to be content with what you have rather than desiring what is theirs.

Rinse and repeat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Work Always Trumps Worry

PROVERBS 28:1
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

‭‭
Why would anyone run away if no one is chasing them?
Because they are worried someone might start chasing them.

Everyone worries about something, and when we worry we do weird stuff. 


What if I don't make enough money?
What if I don't save enough money?
What if I don't get a promotion?
What if I don't close the deal?
What if my wife stops loving me?
What if my husband finds someone one else?
What if my children don't excel?
What if I miss out on something?
What if I get sick?
What if it snows?
What if people don't like me?

Ironically, the majority of problems which cause us worry never come true. Earl Nightingale suggested that 40% of things you worry about will never occur and 30% of the things you worry about cannot be changed anyway. You may or may not get sick, but all the worry in the world won’t change it. Your children may or may not make mistakes (actually, they will make mistakes!) but all the worry in the world won’t change it.

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the fictional character, Newt Scamander, says, “Worrying means you suffer twice”. While not a word for word quote, he’s borrowing from the ancient stoic Seneca who said, “The man that suffers before it is necessary, suffers more than it is necessary
In any given moment of time, you can be worrying about problems or working on solutions.”.

Both make the same point. Worry doesn’t change anything.

However, work changes everything. You can spend your time worrying about problems outside your control or you can spend your time working on solutions within your control.

You can worry about what people think about you or you can work on becoming a person of integrity.

You can worry about what people say about you or you can work on always using your words to build others up.

You can worry about whether or not you’ll get sick or you can work on developing a healthy lifestyle.

You get the point. You cannot control everything happening around you. You cannot control the people around you. So don’t worry about them.

You can always control what you do. You can always control what you say. You can always control where you go. You can always control the perspective you choose. You can always work toward solutions.

The next time you find yourself worrying, ask a simple question. "What can I be working on?"

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Much has changed in the past 15 years, but much is still the same

I have been blogging for a very long time. Much has changed over the past two decades, but some things are still very much the same.

Check out this blog post from 15 years ago (note that one of the big changes is that I now employ traditional capitalization rules):


there is a high level of dissatisfaction in our world today:

- toward the government
- toward the oppressive upper class
- toward the tsunami
- toward Duke basketball
- toward corporate America
- toward terrorism
- toward me
- toward the evangelical church
- toward the emergent church
- toward the eggshell white church

the result of the malcontentedness has been a great upheaval of structures and the proliferation of all types of new movements.

of course, it is human nature to react against things that outrage us. when we observe inequity or any other type of "wrong" we typically:

1) acknowledge our tension with said situation
2) evaluate our ability to change said situation
3) enact a plan to either change said situation or trumpet the evil...

of course, those in power focus their attention on #2 and those who are not empowered focus their attention on #3.

the result is a loud disempowered group. they may be the majority or the minority, but their lack of ability to enact change causes them to trumpet their dissatisfaction even loudlier.

of course, over time the volume of protest breaks down the walls of power, and enough of a majority is convinced of enough of the truth of the disempowered minority to shift the balance of power.